Karen Bartelt, age 69, of Washington, IL, passed away on November 21, 2018 just as the sun was rising over the home that she and her husband built and the woodlands that she loved so well. Her family was by her side.
Karen Elizabeth Ziege was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 5, 1949 to Russell and Betty (Bloedel) Ziege. She grew up in the suburb of Wauwatosa and later attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she earned a BS in chemistry. As an undergraduate, she helped conduct research on moon rocks collected on the Apollo 14 mission. She would later earn an MS in chemistry at Drexel University and a PhD in chemistry at Montana State University.
While in an undergraduate physics class at UW, Karen met the love of her life, Bob Bartelt. They married in 1972. During the early years of their marriage, the couple lived in Michigan and New Jersey as Bob changed duty stations with the Coast Guard. Eventually they moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they had a son, Erik and a daughter, Jill. The family then spent several years in Montana before ultimately settling in Central Illinois. Their household was completed by a series of beloved dogs: Katie, Vinnie, Cheyenne, Hannah, Heidi, and Sasha. Karen showered affection on all of them.
During her professional career, Karen taught chemistry and other science-related courses at Eureka College, Illinois State University, Bradley University, and Illinois Central College. She was a tireless advocate for logic, reason, and critical thinking. In the words of Carl Sagan, she saw science as “a candle in the darkness.”
Karen deeply loved the natural world. When the children were growing up, she and Bob took them on numerous camping and hiking trips throughout the West and Midwest. While on these trips, she was always on the lookout for wildlife; turtles, owls, moose, and baby animals of all kinds were among her favorites. She also delighted in watching the creatures that passed through her yard. She kept the bird feeders well stocked and often had a camera ready to snap photos of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, foxes, and other woodland visitors.
Karen likewise kept her camera close during the many trips she took with Bob after their children were grown. The two became avid world travelers, exploring the natural wonders of North, Central, and South America. Karen brought back hundreds of beautiful photos of the rich, vivid wildlife they saw while traveling. The birds in particular seemed to pose for her, often looking directly into the camera. She amassed an impressive birding life list.
Curious by nature, Karen never stopped learning, and she had a wide variety of interests. In recent years, she conducted extensive genealogical research into her own family history as well as Bob’s. Other activities that she enjoyed include reading, golf, swimming, sewing, and spending time with her friends and family.
Karen will be remembered for her intelligence, her tender heart, her wit, her warmth, her courage, and her generosity. She will be desperately missed.
Survivors include Karen’s husband, Bob Bartelt; her son, Erik (Natasha) Bartelt; her daughter, Jill Bartelt (Marc Nelson); her sister, Kris (Rich) Leaver; her grandchildren, Calvin, Hazel, and Levi Bartelt; and countless other family members and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents.
Cremation rites have been accorded. Visitation hours will be held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 8 at the Mason-White Funeral Home in Washington, IL. A celebration of life service will follow at 3:00 p.m. Memorials in Karen’s name may be made to these organizations: the International Crane Foundation, the National Butterfly Center, Tazewell Animal Protective Society (TAPS), or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. To share a memory or send a condolence for her family, visit www.masonfuneralhiomes.com.
Charities mentioned in Karen Bartelt’s obituary:
International Crane Foundation
E11376 Shady Lane Road
P.O. Box 447
Baraboo, WI 53913
National Butterfly Center
3333 Butterfly Park Drive
Mission, Texas 78572
Tazewell Animal Protective Society (TAPS)
100 TAPS Lane
Pekin, IL 61554
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
1500 Rosecrans Avenue, Suite 200
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Phone: 310-725-0025 (ask for Alissa)